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Q:  I have been diagnosed for many years with bipolar My family chooses not to support me in this journey, esp my older daughter. As soon as I am having an episode no one will come near me --call me ---ask if I am alright actually I don't have to be sick for this to occur I feel so alone I have tried to suggest books that they could read but to no avail I feel so defeated and cannot see a solution to this terrible situation I know I wasn't the best mom in the world ,not that this is an excuse but I was unmedicated and my husband was an alcoholic. They place no blame on him. I seem to be able to handle this when I am stable but when I'm not it has given me thoughts of suicide because I can never see any resolution to this and I am not complete without the love and support of my kids who I love with all my heart and soul Is there anything that you can suggest for me to do ? Thank you so much.

Dear K,

     Learn to turn to people who can actually help.  It may be that you want assurance from your family, but these are not always the best people to turn to for practical help and understanding.  Use what they can offer if anything and then find others who can give you what they need.  Think of the people in your life who are good listeners.  Who offers good advice and an open mind?  You don't have to be close to these people at all.  You just have to be open to asking for their help and support.  Family are not always in the best position to do this.  Choose the right people.  Find a support group.  Become involved in individual psychotherapy and discuss issues such as these.  Protect your own mental health first.

     The more accepting YOU are of the realities of this "illness" and how it may affect your family relationships in the future, the easier it will be to help you family find some comfortable ground.  Let go of your past guilt.  It hurts too much and there's nothing you can do to change it.

There is an excellent book I'm going to recommend that can help you put together a holistic treatment plan with or without the help of each and every member of your entire family.  It's called "Loving Someone With Bipolar Disorder" by Julie A. Fast, 2004.  Sit down with you family including your daughter if she is willing at a time when you are well once you have read this book thoroughly and try to focus on the present.  Try to let go of the past and all of it's mistakes.  Start with a new program based on a plan from this book that works.  Realize that some things can't be repaired.  The solution is to make it very, very clear to your family that you're willing to move forward together IF they are willing to work on a treatment plan together with you.  If they are, put those past hurts in a box in your mind and  bury them.......move on........easier said than done but you can choose to try.

     What if your family refuses to make any changes?  You can't force someone to do anything.  You can only take care of yourself but you can make it clear what you need from the relationship and try to gather the support of those who are willing to help you.  Don't try to force change.  One option is to give this time in the hope that gradual positive changes eventually will lead to implementing further changes.

     I'm not certain as to why your children would place no blame on your husband for being alcoholic.  I'm guessing they were all affected in one way or another by his excessive drinking.  You do use the past tense- perhaps they are relatively forgiving now that he is sober at this time.  Unfortunately, you are dealing with a chronic disease which like diabetes has to do with neurochemical imbalances requiring lifelong treatment AND included relatively unpredictable disturbances of mood as a result of these imbalances.  Do your children understand the differences between alcoholism and bipolar disorder?  I will include some resources for you.

     One final note.....I beg to differ with your last few sentences.  I believe what you really need is the love and support of YOURSELF first.  Of course you love your children.  Children often misunderstand but there's always room in a parent's heart to forgive one's own children, not so much to forgive oneself.  K, whatever it is that you feel you have done in the past to you kids, I guarantee they are much more over it than you are.  Give yourself a break and let it go so you can move on and deal with what's really going on in the present in order to make things better, ok?

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, (800) 826-3632;

David Schafer, M.Ed.
Staff Psychologist

Published May, 2006


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